Docs claim US trained UAE pilots for combat in Yemen, signaling deeper involvement in conflict
The American military has trained UAE fighter pilots for combat missions in Yemen, indicating Washington’s deeper involvement into the ongoing conflict, a recent report citing US Air Force documents claims.
The papers were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Yahoo News. They appear to show how United Arab Emirates (UAE) pilots and crew were prepared for the Yemen conflict by US instructors under the UAE’s “F-16 pilot training program.”Also on rt.com British elite reap benefits of Saudi-led war on Yemen – hunger striking labour cllr to RT
It was completed at the USAF’s Warfare Center in Al Dhafra, just south of the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.
The training which, according to the documents, took place between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017, resulted in four new instructors and 29 combat wingmen prior to their immediate deployment “for combat operations in Yemen.”
Also revealed was the escorting of four UAE F-16s to the USAF’s Red Flag exercises in the Nevada desert. The two-week advanced aerial combat training oversaw 150 Emirati personnel participate in “challenging exercises” with the goal to “prepare” them for combat action in Yemen.
The UAE has been involved in Yemen’s civil war as part of a Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi rebels who rose up against the government in 2015.
While Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in the country has garnered the most international criticism, the UAE’s role has received less coverage. However, it has been an active partner in the coalition, contributing both troops on the ground in addition to planes in the sky.
When pressed for comment on the UAE training by Yahoo News, both a US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesperson and a second CENTCOM official, Lt. Col. Josh Jacques, repeatedly denied the claims of prepping pilots for Yemen sorties.
“We do not conduct exercises with members of the [Saudi-led coalition] to prepare for combat operations in Yemen,” Jacques said.
READ MORE: Life in fear: Report says 1 in 3 US drone-strike deaths in Yemen are civilians, including children
US officials have long been coy regarding the true extent of their support for the coalition, insisting that arm sales, air-to-air refueling, as well as intelligence training and sharing constitute the extent of their involvement.
However, in November, the US government said it would end mid-air refueling of coalition aircraft in response to growing outrage that the Saudi-led bombing campaign was unlawfully targeting civilians and putting the country on the brink of famine. For its part, Riyadh has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and not military related infrastructure on purpose.
In December, top US military brass reiterated Washington’s lack of involvement. Speaking at a Washington Post event, General Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted that the US was not participating in the civil war, “nor are we supporting one side or the other.”
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